Sunday, May 30, 2010

Big Money, Big Oil, and the Mess Corporations Make

Doug Noon at Borderlands has written another post that strikes just the right note for me.   This one is partly about a math skill we all have trouble with, comprehending big numbers. Do you really understand the difference between a million, a billion, and a trillion dollars?

What's a billion? Bill Gates' wealth increased by $50 billion dollars one year. If he wanted to share that income with every one of the 800,000 people in San Francisco, they'd each get $62,500. This video, from David Chandler, online at the L Curve, gives the best visualization I've seen yet of how skewed income distribution is in the U.S.

That kind of money buys whatever it wants. There are two legs or spikes on this graph, a horizontal one representing most of the population, and a vertical one representing most of the income. This graph represents income; wealth is even more skewed*.

David Chandler:
The horizontal spike has the votes. The vertical spike has the money. Who wins, when it comes to electoral politics? Who has influence? Whose interests are being represented in Washington? Can democracy meaningfully exist where the distribution of wealth, and thus the distribution of power, is this concentrated?
The Supreme Court recently affirmed the personhood of corporations (where much of this wealth sits). If BP were really a person, what would that mean? Pretty hard to put the corporation itself in prison for its criminal actions. And pretty hard to control a 'person' who may be immortal and can buy legislators, along with avoiding prison. Kinda like godzilla, maybe?

*Wealth is what you have; income is what you get, dw/dt (change in wealth with respect to time). The richest one percent are now estimated to own between forty and fifty percent of the nation's wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 95%.

1 comment:

  1. Monsters. Yes. And out of control right now. Godzilla is an excellent characterization.


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